Greenhouse gas concentrations

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Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are gases that absorb energy from the sun and trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. Without GHGs, Earth’s average temperature would be around -18 degrees Celsius, rather than the current average of 15 degrees Celsius. The Earth's natural greenhouse gas effect is one key parameter that makes the planet livable for humans. Human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, agriculture practices and industrialization, put more greenhouse gases into our atmosphere and are changing Earth’s natural greenhouse effect. As concentrations of greenhouse gases increase in the atmosphere, more heat is trapped and atmospheric temperatures rise. The indicators present atmospheric concentrations as measured from sites in Canada and at a global scale for 2 greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide and methane.

Carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the single most important greenhouse gas. It is responsible for approximately 65 % of the radiative forcing that is currently observed.Footnote 1

Key results

  • Globally, annual average carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations increased by 22%, from 338.9 parts per million (ppm) to 412.4 ppm between 1980 to 2020
  • Over the period spanning 1976 to 2020, the annual average concentration of CO2 increased by 24%, from 333.4 parts per million (ppm) to 415.0 ppm
  • In 2020, the average concentration of CO2 in Canada was 415.0 ppm, up from 412.3 ppm in 2019
  • Annual changes of CO2 concentrations observed in Canada are similar to changes observed globally

Carbon dioxide concentration, Canada and global, 1976 to 2020

Data table for the long description
Annual carbon dioxide concentration, Canada and global, 1976 to 2020
Year Carbon dioxide concentration - Canada
(parts per million)
Carbon dioxide concentration - Global
(parts per million)
1976 333.4 n/a
1977 334.6 n/a
1978 336.5 n/a
1979 337.5 n/a
1980 339.6 338.9
1981 341.2 340.1
1982 342.8 340.9
1983 344.2 342.5
1984 345.8 344.1
1985 346.9 345.6
1986 348.4 347.0
1987 349.5 348.7
1988 352.6 351.2
1989 355.0 352.8
1990 355.8 354.1
1991 357.2 355.4
1992 357.8 356.1
1993 358.3 356.8
1994 359.8 358.3
1995 361.6 360.2
1996 363.8 361.9
1997 364.4 363.1
1998 366.9 365.7
1999 368.6 367.8
2000 370.7 369.0
2001 372.1 370.6
2002 374.7 372.6
2003 376.8 375.1
2004 378.7 377.0
2005 380.9 379.0
2006 383.1 381.1
2007 385.0 382.9
2008 386.8 385.0
2009 388.2 386.5
2010 390.9 388.8
2011 393.0 390.6
2012 395.0 392.7
2013 397.9 395.4
2014 399.5 397.3
2015 401.9 399.7
2016 404.6 403.1
2017 407.8 405.2
2018 409.9 407.6
2019 412.3 410.1
2020 415.0 412.5
Monthly carbon dioxide concentration, Canada, 1976 to 2020
Year/Month January
(parts per million)
February
(parts per million)
March
(parts per million)
April
(parts per million)
May
(parts per million)
June
(parts per million)
July
(parts per million)
August
(parts per million)
September
(parts per million)
October
(parts per million)
November
(parts per million)
December
(parts per million)
1976 335.6 337.5 337.6 338.3 338.5 n/a 329.6 323.1 325.2 332.8 332.9 336.8
1977 336.8 337.3 339.3 337.3 338.7 334.8 331.0 327.3 327.3 332.5 335.1 337.9
1978 337.4 339.9 341.9 342.8 339.3 337.1 330.9 328.1 326.6 334.7 339.9 339.8
1979 342.2 340.0 341.8 341.6 342.0 339.8 333.6 329.2 329.6 334.5 336.1 340.1
1980 342.3 341.9 342.6 343.8 343.2 341.9 335.8 329.7 331.7 338.3 341.7 342.0
1981 343.5 345.8 345.5 344.0 346.4 343.0 336.6 330.6 336.4 337.8 341.1 344.0
1982 346.0 346.8 347.6 347.2 346.8 342.6 341.7 334.4 335.3 339.5 341.8 343.9
1983 346.0 347.2 347.2 348.7 348.3 345.1 343.4 335.5 335.3 341.3 344.8 347.7
1984 348.8 348.6 350.1 350.0 350.5 346.1 343.9 336.8 337.8 341.7 346.3 348.6
1985 349.8 351.9 350.9 350.8 351.1 347.8 343.8 337.6 339.0 344.3 347.1 348.2
1986 351.2 350.8 351.4 352.6 351.7 348.1 344.6 345.4 340.4 345.0 348.5 351.4
1987 350.5 352.4 353.3 352.6 353.7 352.4 344.1 341.6 342.3 346.1 350.7 354.7
1988 355.3 355.2 355.2 357.3 355.7 352.9 349.1 342.6 347.1 351.5 353.5 356.2
1989 359.7 358.6 358.9 359.0 359.8 355.9 351.7 343.7 347.5 352.9 355.3 357.1
1990 360.1 359.7 359.0 359.8 358.2 355.7 354.2 346.5 347.4 352.1 357.2 359.3
1991 359.9 361.3 361.1 361.2 361.5 358.1 356.1 347.9 349.5 352.0 357.5 359.9
1992 360.8 362.4 362.1 361.4 362.5 360.6 354.5 349.4 348.9 354.1 356.2 361.2
1993 361.1 363.0 363.2 362.8 363.2 360.2 353.1 349.1 351.5 355.9 356.9 360.0
1994 361.6 363.2 363.9 364.1 363.8 361.4 357.5 350.5 352.1 358.3 358.6 363.1
1995 363.8 365.9 365.7 366.3 364.5 363.0 357.1 352.7 355.1 358.9 362.3 364.2
1996 366.6 366.0 367.3 367.9 367.7 367.0 361.8 356.5 356.0 360.7 363.6 365.1
1997 368.7 368.9 368.8 368.4 368.3 366.2 359.9 354.7 356.2 360.8 364.6 367.2
1998 368.6 369.3 369.6 370.2 370.8 367.8 362.8 357.9 360.4 365.2 369.1 371.2
1999 373.3 373.4 373.6 373.4 372.6 368.3 361.0 357.6 360.4 366.4 370.5 373.3
2000 373.9 375.9 375.3 375.3 374.5 370.4 363.7 359.6 363.3 368.8 373.5 374.5
2001 376.1 376.2 376.4 377.3 376.3 371.4 364.6 361.8 362.5 370.3 375.3 376.9
2002 378.4 378.9 379.1 379.5 378.1 373.1 366.5 364.9 366.5 373.4 378.6 379.4
2003 379.7 380.3 381.5 381.4 380.0 376.3 369.6 367.1 367.6 375.5 380.4 382.1
2004 382.8 383.1 383.7 383.4 382.0 378.3 372.4 366.9 369.7 377.1 381.1 383.5
2005 384.7 385.2 385.0 385.4 383.7 379.6 372.8 370.5 372.9 379.9 384.2 386.6
2006 387.4 387.0 387.9 387.4 385.6 381.5 376.3 371.9 375.7 382.5 386.2 388.0
2007 389.3 388.8 389.9 389.0 387.7 383.2 377.5 373.9 378.1 384.2 387.9 390.4
2008 391.5 392.0 392.3 392.7 390.6 385.9 378.4 375.6 376.2 384.2 390.4 392.2
2009 392.8 393.1 393.4 393.7 392.1 387.9 380.8 376.3 380.6 385.9 390.2 392.3
2010 394.4 395.1 394.9 395.0 393.1 389.1 382.7 381.4 384.8 389.9 394.0 396.4
2011 397.3 397.6 397.9 398.3 395.9 391.6 384.7 381.2 384.7 391.2 396.7 398.4
2012 399.2 399.5 399.9 399.5 397.9 392.9 386.0 384.8 387.4 394.1 398.9 400.5
2013 401.8 402.1 402.1 402.3 400.7 397.0 389.8 386.2 390.8 396.9 401.2 404.0
2014 404.3 404.7 404.9 404.9 403.3 398.3 390.0 387.2 391.0 397.3 402.7 406.0
2015 405.9 406.2 406.5 406.4 404.7 400.2 392.3 390.0 394.3 401.8 406.0 408.9
2016 408.6 409.0 409.4 409.0 406.5 401.9 395.7 393.1 397.8 404.3 408.6 410.8
2017 412.0 412.5 412.8 412.8 410.8 406.6 399.8 396.2 400.0 406.0 410.9 412.8
2018 413.9 413.9 414.7 415.3 413.4 409.4 400.8 398.7 401.1 408.6 413.3 415.5
2019 416.1 416.9 417.4 417.1 415.3 411.6 403.0 400.6 404.2 410.9 416.2 418.1
2020 419.5 420.2 421.1 420.3 418.4 413.9 405.7 403.2 408.7 413.4 417.0 419.2

Note: n/a: not available.

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 5.33 kB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: From 1976 to 1999, averages were calculated based on data from 2 to 3 sampling stations. Since 1999, data from 5 sampling stations are used to represent CO2 concentrations. Global annual averages are based on measurements from sampling stations that are part of the Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2021) Climate Research Division, Canadian Greenhouse Gas Measurement Program and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2021) Global Monitoring Laboratory - Trends in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide.

In 2020, the global average concentration of CO2 reached a new high of 412.4 ppm, up from 410.1 ppm in 2019. Prior to 1750, which was known as the pre-industrial era, global CO2 concentrations were about 278 ppm.Footnote 2 

In Canada, the annual change in CO2 has increased from around 1.5 ppm per year in the 1990s to over 2 ppm per year in the last decade. Seasonal cycles can also be observed with lower concentrations in summer due to photosynthetic uptake (plants remove CO2 from the atmosphere) and higher concentrations in winter (plants release CO2 by respiration).

The confinement measures introduced in 2020 due to the pandemic created an industrial slowdown and important reductions in travel by air and land. This new situation resulted in a reduction in anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Preliminary estimates anticipate a reduction of between 4.2% and 7.5% compared to 2019 CO2 emissions. However, such a reduction in emissions will not have a significant effect on the global CO2 average concentration and will only slightly slow down the rate of increase of the global CO2 concentration. The impact on the CO2 concentration is expected to be smaller than, or at most, similar to the natural year-to-year fluctuations.Footnote 3 

Methane

Methane concentration in the atmosphere

Methane (CH4) is the second most important greenhouse gas generated by human activity. It is currently responsible for approximately 17 % of the radiative forcing.Footnote 1

Key results

  • Globally, annual average methane (CH4) concentrations increased by 13%, from 1 670 parts per billion (ppb) to 1 879 ppb between 1986 to 2020
  • Over the period spanning 1986 to 2020, the annual average concentration of CH4 increased by 11%, from 1 764 ppb to 1 965 ppb at sites in Canada
  • In 2020, the average concentration of CH4 was 1 965 ppb, up from 1952 ppb in 2019 in Canada
  •  Annual changes in observed CH4 concentrations in Canada are similar to annual changes observed over the globe, but the magnitude is typically around 80 ppb higher, due to greater abundance of both natural- and human-caused sources of methane in the northern hemisphere

Methane concentration, Canada and global, 1986 to 2020

Data table for the long description
Annual methane concentration, Canada and global, 1986 to 2020
Year Methane concentration - Canada
(parts per billion)
Methane concentration - Global
(parts per billion)
1986 1 764 1 670
1987 1 774 1 683
1988 1 784 1 693
1989 1 792 1 705
1990 1 803 1 715
1991 1 813 1 725
1992 1 824 1 735
1993 1 819 1 737
1994 1 835 1 742
1995 1 834 1 749
1996 1 835 1 751
1997 1 836 1 755
1998 1 849 1 766
1999 1 857 1 773
2000 1 853 1 773
2001 1 853 1 771
2002 1 855 1 773
2003 1 865 1 777
2004 1 859 1 777
2005 1 860 1 774
2006 1 861 1 775
2007 1 868 1 781
2008 1 877 1 787
2009 1 880 1 794
2010 1 883 1 799
2011 1 889 1 803
2012 1 895 1 808
2013 1 900 1 813
2014 1 912 1 822
2015 1 922 1 834
2016 1 932 1 843
2017 1 938 1 850
2018 1 942 1 857
2019 1 952 1 866
2020 1 965 1 869
Monthly methane concentration, Canada, 1986 to 2020
Year/Month January
(parts per billion)
February
(parts per billion)
March
(parts per billion)
April
(parts per billion)
May
(parts per billion)
June
(parts per billion)
July
(parts per billion)
August
(parts per billion)
September
(parts per billion)
October
(parts per billion)
November
(parts per billion)
December
(parts per billion)
1986 1 780 1 769 1 792 1 773 1 766 1 741 1 738 1 740 1 744 1 788 1 774 1 759
1987 1 776 1 779 1 782 1 771 1 774 1 756 1 753 1 756 1 773 1 789 1 791 1 788
1988 1 799 1 800 1 789 n/a 1 781 1 767 1 750 1 755 1 785 1 791 1 802 1 806
1989 1 800 1 815 1 813 1 792 1 777 1 764 1 758 1 771 1 785 1 791 1 811 1 825
1990 1 822 1 831 1 817 1 801 1 800 1 780 1 775 1 773 1 785 1 808 1 817 1 825
1991 1 840 1 841 1 815 1 809 1 800 1 785 1 782 1 791 1 810 1 817 1 829 1 834
1992 1 858 1 849 1 854 1 830 1 823 1 812 1 792 1 797 1 800 1 813 1 826 1 838
1993 1 837 1 830 1 834 1 819 1 818 1 799 1 788 1 797 1 815 1 820 1 831 1 836
1994 1 857 1 855 1 862 1 844 1 824 1 808 1 803 1 802 n/a 1 838 1 842 1 849
1995 1 846 1 856 1 852 1 844 1 821 1 808 1 807 1 816 1 830 1 835 1 844 1 852
1996 1 858 1 851 1 851 1 841 1 831 1 821 1 811 1 808 1 827 1 839 1 839 1 840
1997 1 867 1 862 1 846 1 842 1 829 1 815 1 809 1 815 1 827 1 837 1 834 1 854
1998 1 863 1 861 1 859 1 843 1 840 1 823 1 819 1 829 1 844 1 859 1 862 1 887
1999 1 885 1 876 1 863 1 859 1 851 1 841 1 837 1 840 1 848 1 855 1 866 1 858
2000 1 861 1 862 1 862 1 858 1 851 1 845 1 845 1 838 1 845 1 854 1 852 1 859
2001 1 865 1 865 1 869 1 861 1 852 1 840 1 828 1 829 1 845 1 853 1 864 1 863
2002 1 879 1 858 1 866 1 862 1 847 1 840 1 833 1 833 1 853 1 855 1 858 1 871
2003 1 877 1 874 1 877 1 866 1 857 1 850 1 847 1 846 1 863 1 864 1 873 1 884
2004 1 878 1 880 1 875 1 862 1 853 1 842 1 832 1 841 1 854 1 858 1 865 1 872
2005 1 869 1 862 1 859 1 858 1 848 1 843 1 840 1 850 1 863 1 866 1 872 1 885
2006 1 881 1 873 1 869 1 862 1 856 1 849 1 844 1 855 1 850 1 854 1 862 1 873
2007 1 878 1 870 1 874 1 864 1 857 1 850 1 846 1 859 1 876 1 878 1 876 1 890
2008 1 892 1900 1 885 1 883 1 870 1 856 1 849 1 861 1 871 1 876 1 883 1 892
2009 1 900 1 894 1 891 1 883 1 871 1 859 1 854 1 863 1 881 1 883 1 886 1 892
2010 1 897 1 892 1 891 1 883 1 876 1 868 1 862 1 872 1 886 1 882 1 891 1 900
2011 1 901 1 901 1 899 1 891 1 878 1 869 1 871 1 876 1 882 1 894 1 903 1 909
2012 1 909 1 907 1 905 1 895 1 885 1 874 1 878 1 887 1 891 1 894 1 906 1 914
2013 1 924 1 915 1 907 1 899 1 891 1 885 1 883 1 882 1 891 1 900 1 906 1 912
2014 1 916 1 919 1 918 1 907 1 900 1 895 1 891 1 909 1 914 1 926 1 920 1 929
2015 1 937 1 931 1 922 1 919 1 909 1 900 1 902 1 913 1 927 1 924 1 934 1 947
2016 1 941 1 938 1 934 1 926 1 923 1 911 1 912 1 927 1 939 1 943 1 940 1 952
2017 1 961 1 950 1 947 1 936 1 928 1 921 1 919 1 926 1 936 1 938 1 950 1 949
2018 1 956 1 948 1 946 1 945 1 934 1 926 1 921 1 928 1 940 1 946 1 955 1 962
2019 1 960 1 965 1 958 1 951 1 939 1 934 1 935 1 943 1 955 1 961 1 961 1 969
2020 1 975 1 973 1 966 1 961 1 953 1 944 1 947 1 961 1 962 1 980 1 979 1 977

Note: n/a: not available.

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 4.04 kB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: From 1986 to 1999, averages were calculated based on data from 1 to 2 sampling stations. Since 1999, data from 5 sampling stations are used to represent CH4 concentrations. Global annual averages are based on measurements from sampling stations that are part of the Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2021) Climate Research Division, Canadian Greenhouse Gas Measurement Program and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2021) Global Monitoring Laboratory - Trends in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide.

In 2020, the global average concentration of CH4 reached a new high of 1 879 ppb, an increase of 13 ppb from 2019. This increase is higher than the increase of 9 ppb observed in the period from 2018 to 2019 and the average annual increase over the past decade. Pre-industrial global CH4 concentrations were about 720 ppb.Footnote 2  Footnote

From 2007 to 2020, average increases in CH4 in Canada were 8 ppb per year. Although no definitive causes have been identified to explain this increase, stable isotopeFootnote 4   measurements of atmospheric CH4 strongly suggest that increases in wetland emissions in the tropics may be responsible.

Methane concentrations are higher in the northern hemisphere because both natural and human caused sources of methane are more abundant there. Globally, approximately 40% of the CH4 emitted to the atmosphere is from natural sources such as wetlands. The remaining 60% of emissions are due to anthropogenic (human caused) sources such as cattle ranching, agriculture, fossil fuels and landfills.

About the indicators

About the indicators

What the indicators measure

The indicators show the trends in concentrations for 2 greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). Concentrations are presented on monthly and annual bases for Canada. The indicators also include the global annual average concentrations. 

Why these indicators are important

Greenhouse gases trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere, just as the glass of a greenhouse keeps warm air inside. Human activity increases the amount of GHGs in the atmosphere, contributing to a warming of the Earth's surface. This is called the enhanced greenhouse effect. The release of GHGs and their increasing concentrations in the atmosphere are having significant impacts on the environment, human health and the economy. Consult Greenhouse gas emissions: drivers and impacts for information on the human health, environmental and economic impacts of greenhouse gas emissions.

These indicators serve to identify trends and seasonal variability of carbon dioxide and methane concentrations in Canada. They provide a coherent and consistent picture of the current and past states of these 2 greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, as a result of changing atmospheric transport patterns, emissions from natural sources and emissions to the atmosphere due to human activities.

GHG measurements improve our understanding of natural and anthropogenic sources of GHGs, the role of GHGs in warming the atmosphere, as well as the processes that govern the transport and fate of GHGs in the biosphere. GHG measurements in the atmosphere complement other key indicators used to assess progress in mitigating climate change by reducing GHG emissions. Since GHGs are long-lived in the atmosphere, atmospheric measurements are an indicator of the global and domestic efforts to date to address GHG emissions.

Related indicators

The Greenhouse gas emissions indicators report trends in total anthropogenic (human-made) GHG emissions at the national level, per person and per unit gross domestic product, by province and territory and by economic sector.

The Global greenhouse gas emissions indicator provides a global perspective on Canada's share of global GHG emissions.

The Carbon dioxide emissions from a consumption perspective indicator shows the impact of Canada's consumption of goods and services, regardless of where they are produced, on the levels of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

The Progress towards Canada's greenhouse gas emissions reduction target indicator provides an overview of Canada's projected GHG emissions up to 2030.

The Greenhouse gas emissions from large facilities indicator reports GHG emissions from the largest GHG emitters in Canada (industrial and other types of facilities).

Data sources and methods

Data sources and methods

Data sources

Concentration data used for these indicators were retrieved from the Canadian Greenhouse Gas Measurement Program of the Climate Research Division of Environment and Climate Change Canada. The indicators are calculated using the greenhouse gas concentrations measured at the Alert (NU), Sable Island (NS), Estevan/Cape St. James (BC), Fraserdale (ON) and Candle Lake/East Trout Lake (SK) monitoring stations. The final ambient concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) are averaged to estimate the annual and monthly indicators values.

Global average annual concentrations were obtained from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Global Monitoring Laboratory (NOAA/GML), which developed the Carbon Cycle Greenhouse Gases research program. 

More information

Canadian Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Network

Environment and Climate Change Canada has been continually building a long-term observation network for atmospheric measurements of CO2, CH4 and carbon monoxide (CO), which currently stands at 16 core continuous observational ground-based sites. These sites are spread across the country in coastal, interior and arctic regions, with the aim of providing high quality data to observe and monitor natural sources and sinks, and anthropogenic (human-caused) sources of greenhouse gases in Canada. 

The data used for the indicators were measured at 3 coastal sites and 2 mid-continental forest sites that are part of the Canadian Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Network.

The coastal sites are located at:

  • Alert (NU), on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian high Arctic,
  • Sable Island (NS), located in the Atlantic Ocean,
  • Estevan Point (BC), a lighthouse station located on the coastline of Vancouver Island. Estevan Point became the replacement station for Cape St. James in 1992, when the weather station at Cape St. James was automated and no longer required a manned presence on site.

The mid-continental forest monitoring stations are situated in:

  • Fraserdale (ON), located 150 km north of Timmins (ON),
  • Candle Lake (SK), located 150 km north-east of Prince Albert (SK). After 3 years of operation, East Trout Lake became the replacement station for Candle Lake in 2005.

The Alert Station is also an official World Meteorological Organization Global Atmosphere Watch Program (WMO-GAW) station, one of 26 global stations around the world. Alert is the most northerly site in the WMO-GAW Network. The Alert site is also one of three sites, along with Mauna Loa and Cape Grim, which have been identified by the WMO-GAW as official greenhouse gas intercomparison sites.

Greenhouse gas concentration monitoring stations in Canada, 2020

Data table for the long description
Greenhouse gas concentration monitoring stations in Canada, 2020
Start date Site name
(3 letter station code)
Coordinates Elevation (asl) Intake height Insitu parameters Insitu instrumentation Flask sampling frequency (for CO2, CH4, CO, N2O, SF6)
March, 1975 Sable Island, Nova Scotia (WSA) 43.932237N, 60.009275W 5m 25m CO2, CH4, CO NDIR, GC, CRDS Single flask every three days
July, 1975 Alert, Nunavut (ALT) 82.450833N, 62.507222W 200m 10m CO2, CH4, CO, N2O NDIR, GC, CRDS OA-ICOS One pair of flasks eachweek
January, 1990 Fraserdale, Ontario (FRD) 49.875222N, 81.570083W 210m 40m CO2,CH4, CO, N2O, SF6 NDIR, GC, CRDS Single flask once per week (in the afternoon)
June, 1992 Estevan Point, British Columbia (ESP) 49.382954N, 126.544101W 7m 40m CO2, CH4, CO NDIR, GC, CRDS One pair of flasks once per week
June, 2002 Candle Lake, Saskatchewan (CDL) 53.987108N, 105.117939W 600m 30m CO2, CH4, CO NDIR, GC
October, 2003 Downsview, Ontario (DWN) 43.780491N, 79.468010W 198m 20m CO2,CH4, CO, N2O, SF6, CO2 NDIR, GC, CRDS, OA-ICOS Single flask once per week
March, 2005 Egbert, Ontario (EGB) 44.231037N, 79.783834W 251m 3m, 25m CO2,CH4, CO, N2O, SF6, Radon NDIR, GC, CRDS One pair of flasks every other week
August, 2005 East Trout Lake, Saskatchewan(ETL) 54.354130N, 104.986835W 493m 105m CO2,CH4, CO, N2O, SF6 NDIR, GC, CRDS Single flask once per week (in the afternoon
April, 2007 Churchill, Manitoba (CHU) 58.737885N, 93.819403W 29m 60m CO2, CH4, CO CRDS Single flask twice per week (in the afternoon)
April, 2007 Lac La Biche, Alberta (LLB) 54.953851N, 112.466646W 540m 10m, 50m CO2, CH4, CO NDIR, GC, CRDS NOAA Sampling
August, 2007 Chibougamau, Quebec (CHB) 49.692510N, 74.342296W 393m 30m CO2, CH4, CO NDIR, GC
October, 2009 Bratt’s Lake, Saskatchewan (BRA) 50.201683N, 104.711268W 595m 35m CO2, CH4, CO CRDS Single flask once per week
January, 2010 Esther, Alberta (EST) 51.670681N, 110.206009W 707m 3m, 50m CO2, CH4 CO CRDS
October, 2010 Behchoko, Northwest Territories (BCK) 62.798087N, 115.919426W 160m 60m CO2, CH4, CO  CRDS
December, 2011 Chapais, Quebec (CPS) 49.822317N, 74.975274W 391m 8m, 40m CO2, CH4 CRDS Single flask once per week
February, 2012 Inuvik, Northwest Territories (INK) 68.317817N, 133.534232W 113m 10m CO2, CH4 CO CRDS Single flask once per week
December, 2012 Cambridge Bay, Northwest Territories (CBY) 69.128418N, 105.057709W 35m 12m CO2, CH4, CO CRDS Single flask once per week
March, 2014 Abbotsford, British Columbia (ABT) 49.011386N, 122.335332W 60m 33m CO2, CH4, CO, N2O, Radon CRDS, OA-ICOS Single flask once per week

Note: The map displays the 16 primary long-term greenhouse gas concentration monitoring stations in Canada. The 5 sites of Alert (NU), Sable Island (NS), Fraserdale (ON) Candle Lake/East Trout Lake (SK) and Cape St. James/Estevan Point used in the indicators are shown using pink stars. The 3 terminated stations of Cape St. James, Candle Lake and Chibougamau are also shown.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2021) Climate Research Division, Canadian Greenhouse Gas Measurement Program.

Temporal coverage

The indicator presenting the carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations covers the period from 1976 to 2020. However, no data on global CO2 concentrations were available from 1976 to 1980.

The methane (CH4) concentrations were calculated using data for the years 1986 to 2020.

Data availability

Greenhouse gas observations at the 5 monitoring stations are all currently monitored continuously and provide hourly, daily and monthly data. Prior to 1988, carbon dioxide (CO2) observations were monitored using weekly grab (flask) sampling procedures.

Greenhouse gas observations at the 5 monitoring stations are all currently monitored continuously and provide hourly, daily and monthly data. Prior to 1988, carbon dioxide (CO2) observations were monitored using weekly grab (flask) sampling procedures.

Data availability varies by station and by greenhouse gas over time. The following table shows the time periods for which data are available for each greenhouse gas at the 5 monitoring stations. 

Data availability by greenhouse gas and monitoring station

Greenhouse gas Time period Monitoring stations
Carbon dioxide 1976 to 2020 Alert and Sable Island
Carbon dioxide 1979 to 2020 Cape St. James/Estevan Point
Carbon dioxide 1999 to 2020 Fraserdale
Carbon dioxide 2002 to 2020 Candle Lake/East Trout Lake
Methane 1985 to 2020 Alert
Methane 1990 to 2020 Fraserdale
Methane 1999 to 2020 Sable Island, Cape St. James/Estevan Point
Methane 2002 to 2020 Candle Lake/East Trout Lake

Global concentrations from the Carbon Cycle Greenhouse Gases research program

The Carbon Cycle Greenhouse Gases (CCGG) research program from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Global Monitoring Laboratory operates the Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, measuring the atmospheric distribution and trends of the 3 main long-term drivers of climate change, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), as well as carbon monoxide (CO). 

Methods

The monthly and annual concentrations are an average of the daily values over the corresponding period of time.

More information

Carbon dioxide

The continuous measurement of carbon dioxide (CO2) follows the set of principles and protocols established by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The atmospheric CO2 observational programs at Alert, Fraserdale, Candle Lake/East Trout Lake, Sable Island and Cape St. James/Estevan Point were all initially based on non-dispersive infrared (NDIR) methodology. A rigorous set of measurement calibrations and data processing are in place to obtain valid ambient 5 minute data measurements. Hourly, daily, monthly and annual data are then estimated from the 5 minute values. Starting in 2009, Cavity Ring-Down Spectrometer (CRDS) analytical setups for CO2 were beginning to be introduced to the network. The CRDS instruments provide similar measurement precision as NDIR methodology, however, the CRDS systems contain an overall simpler design, are simpler to operate and require much less effort to maintain. In addition, the measurements of methane (CH4) and carbon monoxide (CO) are available on the same single CRDS system. Hourly, daily, monthly and annual data are estimated from the 1 minute CRDS values. All CO2 measurements are directly traceable to the international absolute WMO x2007 mole fraction scale maintained by the WMO Central Calibration Laboratory (CCL) at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Earth System Research Laboratories calibration facilities in Boulder, Colorado.

For the earlier parts of the record, CO2 was also sampled weekly with flasks using NDIR methodology. As for the continuous method, many calibration steps are executed in order to obtain the final measured values. For more information on the flask CO2 NDIR and continuous CO2 NDIR and CRDS measurement procedures and data processing please consult the parameter metadata section for the Environment and Climate Change Canada network on the World Data Centre for Greenhouse Gases website.

Methane

The atmospheric methane (CH4) observational measurements at Alert, Fraserdale, Candle Lake/East Trout Lake, Sable Island and Cape St. James/Estevan Point were all initially made using a gas chromatography technique equipped with a flame ionization detector (FID). As noted, starting in 2009 Cavity Ring-Down Spectrometer (CRDS) analytical setups for CH4 were being introduced to the network. All CH4 measurements are reported in 10-9 mol CH4 per mol of dry air [nmol/mol] or parts per billion [ppb] and directly traceable to the international absolute WMO x2004 CH4 mole fraction scale maintained by the WMO Central Calibration Laboratory (CCL) at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Earth System Research Laboratories calibration facilities in Boulder, Colorado.

For more information on the continuous CH4 measurements procedures and data manipulation please consult the parameter metadata section for the Environment and Climate Change Canada network on the World Data Centre for Greenhouse Gases website.

Global annual concentrations

The global estimate is based on measurements from a subset of network sites. Only sites where samples are predominantly of well-mixed marine boundary layer (MBL) air representative of a large volume of the atmosphere are considered. Measurements from sites close to anthropogenic and natural sources and sinks are excluded from the global estimate.

Global averages are constructed by first fitting a smoothed curve as a function of time to each site, and then the smoothed value for each site is plotted as a function of latitude for 48 equal time steps per year. A global average is calculated from the latitude plot at each time step. For more details on the methodology used, please consult National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Global Monitoring Laboratory website.

Caveats and limitations

Given greenhouse gas (GHG) are long-lived in the atmosphere and are transported globally from the site of emission, these indicators are an integrated measure of global and domestic GHG emissions to the atmosphere. For more information on Canada’s emissions, and to assess Canada’s progress in reducing its emissions, please refer to the related indicators which present information on greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

For both carbon dioxide and methane concentrations, the number of monitoring stations used in the analyses increased in 1999. The change in the number of monitoring sites may have influenced calculations of the average values and make it difficult to compare trends prior and post 1999. In the particular case of methane concentrations, values prior to 1999 were based on data from 1 station and may not be representative of the concentrations over Canada. 

Resources

References

Environment and Climate change Canada (2017) Canadian Greenhouse Gas Measurement Program. Retrieved on November 19, 2020.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2013) Climate change 2013: The physical science basis. contribution of working group I to the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Retrieved on November 19, 2020.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2020) Carbon cycle greenhouse gases. Retrieved on November 19, 2020.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2021) Global monitoring laboratory - Trends in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Retrieved on June 1, 2021.

World Data Centre for Greenhouse Gases (2018) Data archive. Retrieved on November 19, 2020.

World Meteorological Organization (2019) WMO Greenhouse Gases Bulletin. Retrieved on October 27, 2020.

World Meteorological Organization (2020) Global Atmosphere Watch. Retrieved on November 19, 2020.

World Meteorological Organization (2020) WMO Greenhouse Gases Bulletin. Retrieved on January 26, 2021.

Related information

Canada’s action on climate change

Canada's changing climate report

Climate change

Greenhouse gas emissions

Greenhouse gas emissions: drivers and impacts

 

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